Hunt on for alleged Pride flag vandal

Police want to identify this man following a vandalism at the First Congregational Church. —West Tisbury Police Department

Police are looking to put a name to a face after a security camera showed a man ripping down a Pride flag outside the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury on Saturday night.

The church’s pastor, the Rev. Cathlin Baker, told The Times that the incident occurred on the first day of Pride Month. Churchgoers arriving Sunday morning found the rainbow-striped flag, a symbol of the LGBTQ pride and social movements, on the steps outside the church.

Baker said security cameras were installed after the church’s Pride displays provoked controversy several years ago. She said the church has flown a Pride flag for more than five years.

West Tisbury Police posted a still photo from the security camera video on Sunday. It shows a man wearing what appears to be a white Quiksilver brand T shirt.

Baker said the Pride flag was torn down so aggressively it bent the hardware, which now must be replaced. She said the video shows the man looking directly at the camera and using crude gestures and language.

Lt. Matthew Gebo of the West Tisbury Police told The Times that the man left the scene in a black Ford or Jeep Wrangler, and that the incident is under investigation.

“I think people are saddened by his actions. It’s just a reminder of the hate and fear and discrimination that the LGBT community experiences regularly,” Baker said.

“Our message is pretty clear that God loves everyone, so we are feeling like we hope for a change of [the alleged vandal’s] heart and mind around this, you know?” she added.

For now, her church has requested a police presence outside. “Especially in coming weeks,” she said; “we are having different events for LGBTQ church members, and friends and family in the community.”

Baker said she called law enforcement partly because an FBI alert sent around the country had recommended extra vigilance during Pride month.

She also said that the Pride flag is important to her congregation.

“We have been an open and affirming church for almost 10 years now,” she said. “We consider the Pride progress flag — the rainbow flag — to be like our welcome mat. It says that all are welcome here, especially those in the LGBTQ community who may have not felt welcome in churches in the past.”


  1. “Hunt on” for alleged Pride flag vandal…

    Wow. His crime is so egregious that the “hunt” is “on”.

    Desecrate an American flag though, and the lunatics would hail this young man as a hero.

    This is a sick, depraved, upside-down world we live in.

    Have a good rest of your day, Reggie

    • Looks like a selfish, inability to empathize, narrow -minded world you find yourself in….

      • Mary– I pointed out the countries that allow freedom
        of expression, like flag burning and criticizing the
        president. Apparently the moderator didn’t like
        something about that. But anyone can look it up.
        Most of the right wingers who decry people for
        burning flags (legal in the U.S, as long as it’s yours
        and not a fire hazard )
        would be in Jail for the way they criticize the current president.
        Countries that will jail you for burning a flag will also throw you
        in jail for criticizing the president. China
        will throw you in jail for flying their flag upside down.
        Justice Alito take notice. But of course, Alito got
        extra credit from misogynistic conservatives for throwing
        his wife under the bus for it.
        So I think we are even– people here can burn their flags
        whether they be the American , pride, confederate battle,
        nazi, BLM, Palestinian or Israeli, Russian or Ukrainian.
        And people here can also criticize the
        president and high ranking politicians, whether they are
        conservative or liberal.
        It’s called “freedom”
        Reggie take notice —-

  2. “a symbol of the LGBTQ+ pride and social movements” Thank you for recognizing that this flag has several meanings to different people. Having said that there is no excuse for damaging someone’s private property whether a pride flag or a Trump sign. Prosecute this individual.

  3. I think that the deeper issue here is that as a society we’ve become so self-oriented that we’ve largely lost the capacity for civil discourse – as seen by the trend to shift demonstrations of free speech into violence, vandalism, and the violation of others’ rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s what the American Flag represents; a society where all people regardless of their individual viewpoints can have a safe space to articulate those (often opposing) viewpoints in the marketplace of ideas.

    What this individual did at the West Tisbury Congregational Church was not a “protest” or “free expression” – it was a violation of private property and vandalism and as a criminal act should be punished for the good of society as a whole. The first lesson of civility is self-control. The second is respect for others. We’re seeing too many instances of people on both sides of the political spectrum allowing themselves to be “triggered” by the words and symbols of others into some form of violent action.

    • Thank you, Matthew, for such an articulate and thoughtful response. This gets down to the core of what matters.

    • Thank you Rev. Splittgerber. Let’s keep in mind that
      both sides are not equal.
      Ronald Reagan eliminated the Fairness Doctrine in 1987,
      which had been in place since 1949.

      The conservative viewpoint is overwhelming loud.
      “But this surge of online content is merely the latest
      front in a 70-year effort by conservative activists to
      cultivate an alternative media system to
      rival mainstream media hegemony.
      There is no comparable left-wing counterpart.”

    • Rev. Splittgerber, appreciate your kind response.
      I do want to offer a rebuttal of your point that both sides
      of the political spectrum are triggered into violent action.

      Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by racists.
      The conservative president at the time did not offer
      condolences to the family, which is expected of a president
      at those times. Was that tacit approval?

      Show me an instance of violence by the other side.

      • Hello Mary, I appreciate your kind words regarding my post. When I wrote, “We’re seeing too many instances of people on both sides of the political spectrum allowing themselves to be “triggered” by the words and symbols of others into some form of violent action.” I was thinking of both the January 6 attack on the Capitol Building by people who identify as politically right and the attack and occupation of Hamilton Hall at Columbia University by people who identify as politically left.

        History bears this out as both the German Nazis (far right) and Russian Communists (far left) resorted to violence to both attain and sustain their political ideologies and agendas – squelching dissent and discourse in the process.

        • Rev. Splittgerber, while it’s true about the two incidents you point out, and it’s true that Nazis and communists were both detrimental, let’s not say both sides are equally wrong. That’s not true. We have a past president who is whipping our nation into a frenzy with lies. We have another president who is trying to use diplomacy to govern. They are not in the same ballpark.

  4. Just in case anyone is not sure which political party
    in this country is the party of divisiveness—
    I’m sure all the right wing rednecks in Colorado will take this the proper way,
    and only burn flags that they purchase. I am certain that none of those fine
    upstanding , god fearing , law abiding patriots would ever think of actually
    stealing someone else’s flag and burn it.
    I fully support their right to purchase a pride flag
    or a confederate battle flag, or a swastika flag and burn it.
    As long as they get a
    permit from the fire department of course. We wouldn’t want to have some sort of
    hate rally start a fire in some tinder dry community while enduring a record
    breaking heat wave during a drought.
    Burn all you want, boys, but be careful. And burn your own flags.

    • Hi Don, I enjoy reading your comments because they’re always thoughtful and come from a caring place. As long as we’re trapped in a binary, DEM/REP, Left/Right sliver of reality in which the two sides reclaim the same hill ad infinitum, there will be endless ping-pong games of what-about-ism exchanges between the MAGAs and the Wokes. The failure of each side to see the humanity in the other and why they’re being drawn to the loudest and most demagogic voices is tragic. A family falling behind economically and seeing their town struggle will resonate with a message of economic empowerment, low crime, strong defense, and traditional values, even if it comes from a clownish demagogue. Ignoring the pain and fear these families are experiencing and blaming them for being retrograde cretins for not supporting the other party only solidifies the status quo. Granted, I will never waste my breath trying to have a rational conversation with a QAnon follower. You can’t beat an oxymoron.

      • Julian, agree with your comment to Don that he comments
        from a thoughtful and caring place. You do the same.
        Thank you.
        The ping-pong between conservatives and liberals is
        skewed–the oil money that is pouring into the coffers
        of the conservative party is unprecedented.
        The conservative oil barons are choosing to support a criminal
        for president–why? Because they see in him the ability to
        lie and cheat in support of their propaganda about the
        environment. The oil barons are fighting for their lives
        (Putin is fighting in Ukraine for the ability to preserve oil
        revenue!) and they have no intention of giving in.
        In Texas the oil billionaires have been watching every single
        vote in the Texas congress for years and if the congressmen
        don’t vote exactly radical right like the oil billionaires want,
        they oust them.
        If it sounds like something out of Animal Farm or pre-WWI
        or pre-WWII, that’s because it is.
        Vote AGAINST the conservative oil industry.

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